Last week, Canada Post announced it was going to stop home postal delivery and implement community mailboxes in urban centres.
That Canadians, homeowners and businesses alike, were caught off guard is an understatement. Coming one day after the Christmas recess of Parliament, Canada Post’s decision was met mostly with disbelief, anger and dismay, but also in some quarters, with approval.
First off, let me say I have personal experience with three models of delivery: home, paid postal box in a rural area, and a free community mailbox in a rural area (albeit part of a new housing development zone).
Of the three, my preference is for home delivery, followed by the paid postal box. It is safe to say that my dislike of the community mailbox was largely seasonal, as being exposed to the elements while collecting mail was less than desirable. I also missed the contact with the letter carriers and the postal clerks, so when I moved back into St. John’s, home delivery was a huge plus.
I am not alone in my beliefs. But let’s deal with the approval of the decision first.
Quite a number of people who use community mailboxes support the move to cease home delivery, largely on the basis that they don’t have it, so why should some enjoy it?
Others highlighted the benefits of a daily walk to the community mailbox citing the chance to get outside, enjoy some fresh air and get some exercise.
Valid points for sure, but let’s take a closer look at some of the assumptions. I never see equality as a means to treat people equally badly, but rather as the way we should treat all equally well.
Just because home delivery was phased out in certain areas doesn’t mean that was a good decision to start with. At least in rural areas, you get the human contact with the post office staff and the boxes are located indoors, away from the elements.
Secondly, the exercise/fresh air benefit is important, but doesn’t help if you are disabled or a frail senior. While Canadians are living longer, and many are healthier, that’s not always the case. The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop health issues that may make it difficult to go for that walk, especially when sidewalks are icier and the risk of a fall or fracture — something that could dramatically affect your life — is greater.
As a colleague in the disability movement notes, people are just one accident/illness away from being disabled. But even now, there are many seniors and people with disabilities who will be ill-served by this decision.
Not all live in apartment buildings, whose postal services, while not delivered apartment door to apartment door, are serviced with post boxes inside and well secured from elements and miscreants.
Of course, people may say, why not drive? For all its pains, my super mailbox was located in an area close to no one with a pullover lane where people could park and hop out. But it was on a hill and it would be challenging, especially in winter, to manage with a wheelchair, crutches, cane or walker.
After last week’s announcement, I started looking at where the mailboxes are already in our area. I found a great example of a poorly designed one on a four-lane roadway, with no pullover area, no shelter, and no visible garbage/recycling unit.
At least one can argue that the community boxes in new suburban developments are built with some reasonable discretion in placement and shelter. However, I can tell you that our super mailbox was not equipped to deal with people’s disposal of junk/marketing/promotional flyer mail. Frequently the small garbage unit was full, and our famous winds often dispersed paper to the four corners of the Earth … I mean, subdivision.
A burning question for many is this: where will the community mailboxes be located in urban centres? In the older areas of town, there is less real estate available to appropriate for use with a sheltered community mailbox.
Further, how will we deal with the diminished social contact resulting from the absence of letter carriers? Will plans for community mailboxes take into account universal design and meet the needs of people with disabilities or other mobility/access challenges?
Small businesses and Canadians in general still use the post office to maintain contact with clients and friends. While email is a tremendous tool for efficiency, not everything can be done reliably and securely with electronic services.
I have no disagreement that costs are high, both for delivery and for the use of the service. But there are creative approaches that can be used: for example, why not go to delivery twice a week?
Cities use zones to schedule weekly pick up of garbage and recycling to manage costs and workloads. Why not limit the salary costs of senior and upper management?
Switzerland has developed a model of calculation that allows for recognition of the jobs undertaken by organizational leaders but not so much that it demeans the other employees’ value as well as risk the company’s financial position.
Then there are the politicians. I wonder how many of them will be getting the proverbial message as this decision runs its course.
Martha Muzychka is a writer and
consultant. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.